This is the story of the Gentle Lord. There was a man named Tiberius who really wanted children, but his wife wasn't built to be able to. So he turned to an immortal man called the Gentle Lord, or Ignifex, who grants wishes with a, er, delirious exchange. He rules a giant castle atop a hill in the land of Arcadia, where the sun shines but behind a weird layer of what looks like paper, and he also rules over these shadow demons who have eyes you can't look at. Ever. But here's the deal. The Gentle Lord promised to allow his wife to get pregnant. In exchange, one of them would have to marry him when she reaches 17. That time is now, and the Gentle Lord for eternity has caused the world misery so it's up to Nyx Triskelion, has always been up to Nyx ever since she was chosen to be the daughter to do it when she resembled her father more than her mother and her sister Astraia was seen as the better one in all categories, to kill him. But in order to do that, she'll have to be sly, navigating a huge house, battle a huge husband, and find the hearts of all the elements: Fire, Air, Earth, and Water. Why? It's a magic thing. Oh, and I almost forgot: This is a Beauty and the Beast kind of retelling.
I had high hopes for this book because the cover is gorgeous, lots of people on Goodreads love it, and next to Dorothy Must Die, I think Cruel Beauty is the best title I've ever heard for a YA book. It could mean a dozen different things and has a fantasy swirl feeling that's irresistible. And I enjoyed some parts of this book; enough to warrant a skim-through again in the future, because there are some things I honestly want to reread. But there were a few problems that stuck up from the roots a little bit more than the average YA book, in my personal opinion.
Ignifex got a mixed reaction from me. I don't care that Hodge described him as handsome with dark hair, I always saw Ignifex like Gax from the Ben 10 reboot, a vomit-green coloured tentacle creature with spiky black vintage and eight feet tall. For a better description, here's a picture of him:
Thankfully, the relationship between the two betrothed is also not the only part of the storyline. There's also a lot going on between Nyx and Astraia, a great character, because of their long determined sisterhood and fated farewell. They're sort of, respectively, like Kat and Bianca from 10 Things I Hate About You. Their relationship is believable and stained and Nyx looks at Astraia like she stole her lottery win, and yet Nyx doesn't hate her: can't hate her, and her feelings flesh throughout this book believably and it never gets annoying. In fact, Nyx uses that as an excuse to do something brash, and it actually didn't come off for me as an excuse. The timing Hodge takes in finding these special items she's after are also creatively and well timed.
The ending is also certainly pretty strident, fun, and a little heartbreaking. However, most of the rest of the book has a little too many back stories about greek mythology for my taste, and as a result I found it kind of easy to put away, and its flaws are what I think about first when I think of this book.
I don't really like or dislike Cruel Beauty. It certainly has fun mythology, probably the funkiest house you'll ever visit, some occasionally cute moments, and a shocking ending, but it also suffers from a not completely realized villain and it sometimes lags.